AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

November signals the start of the Holiday Season.  Are you ready?

santa

Now is the time to take inventory, make lists, set up calendars, plan events, figure out where the appropriate decorations were stored last year, and do the necessary ‘touch-ups’ so our homes, offices, and we, ourselves, will look ‘just right’ when the multitudes arrive or we step out.

It is time to get in touch with  our heritage. Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’ with the Thanks, Reverence, and bounty inspired by the calendars of the Church, the State, and the stores (street or ether-based).

Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’...

Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’…

Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months turn into years even if we just sit and breathe. In the blur that is our lives as they are lived here in Los Angeles, it is easy to press forward without looking back. “To every season turn, turn, turn…”

Finland’s Centennial

Finland’s Centennial is almost here. Late November/early December are filled with Thanksgiving, Pikku Joulus, and Christmas parties. Nonetheless, there is still time and the perfect opportunity to create your own Finnish family tradition or add to the ones you have already. Highlight the celebration of Finnish Independence with an infusion of national pride! And, share that pride with others—especially those who are not familiar with our fascinating history and heritage.

Somehow, the proximity of Finnish Independence Day (6 December) with Thanksgiving reminds us of the immigrant experience we and/or our forefathers and foremothers shared with the first European settlers who came to America centuries ago. Once here, the early Pilgrims had to learn the ways of the New World from the Indian natives if they were to survive and prosper in a demanding foreign land.   Yet, the Pilgrims retained their history and culture even as they adapted and learned new ways. So, too, do we immigrant Finns retain the deep, everlasting roots of our Finnish heritage woven into our life tapestries.

Three Finnish children write America on the chalk board in a class held for children of immigrants detained at Ellis Island in 1947

Three Finnish children write America on the chalk board in a class held for children of immigrants detained at Ellis Island in 1947

In just a few years, Finland will celebrate its 100th year of Independence. There will be a bevy of publications, events, and proclamations highlighting our trip through history at that time. The period preceding the Centennial presents an opportunity to study the centuries of relationships with our Swedish and Russian neighbors, to review the role that the Lutheran Church had in shaping our national culture and character, and to learn about Finland’s modern transformation from an agricultural, iconoclastic society to a global paragon of technological and educational wizardry! This is an excellent time to involve our youngest generations in noting and honoring our homeland as part of a Finnish family tradition. As Americans, they will learn about how the United States evolved in school. ‘They came, they saw, they conquered—and, they wanted to live happily ever after!’

As we celebrate Finnish Independence on 6 December, Americans remember the surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7th.  The Finnish Continuation War was the American equivalent of Pearl Harbor.   A reluctant participant in World War I—“The War to End All Wars”, the US was more than hesitant to become involved in World War II until the Pacific attack. In December 1941, Finland was 24 years old—the US was 165 years old.   [The ‘new’ world was old, the ‘old’ world was new.] If the US had not entered WW II, we Finns would still be blue-eyed and blond, but we would speak German, not Finnish. Then, again, if it were not for the Sisu of our parents and grandparents who fought Russia to a ‘stand still’, we would speak Russian, not Finnish.

... following the Battle of Vuosalmi on the Karelian Isthmus during the Continuation War. The battle ended with a decisive Finnish victor

… following the Battle of Vuosalmi on the Karelian Isthmus during the Continuation War. The battle ended with a decisive Finnish victory

Modern History Can Be Fun While You Live It!

Suggesting a fun, modern, LA-style approach to Finnish Independence Day is in no way meant to denigrate the solemnity, dignity, and reverence of the occasion honoring those who made Finland possible.   That is always important to do.

However, this is the time of year to have some fun with your heritage. Modern Finland (with its unique, beautifully innovative spirit) is a source of pride and inspiration for many of us in the way we live, how we present ourselves, the clothes we wear, how we decorate our homes, and how we share our heritage with our friends and the world. For me, food is fun—and can be expressive in its own way.

When I entertain, I always try to have a number of interesting desserts for guests to experience. This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert. It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day. The effort was successful. The result was a fun conversation piece, easy to make, colorfully Finnish, and a big hit.

This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert.  It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day

This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert. It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day

My party meal conclusion inspiration was born of a T-shirt—would you believe? Try this for your Independence Day party—or any future Finnish celebration. It is easy, made-ahead, and festive for all busy Finn-Angelenos.  The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt which was a ‘classic’ from the ‘60s—1960s, of course.

The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt

The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt

Fashion Note: My long-term favorite ‘go-to’ outfit is that same Marimekko T-Shirt under a tailored blue blazer with my Finnish grandmother’s [Pih-Mummi] pearls or a Tapio Wirkkala Lapponia gold necklace. A pair of jeans (if that is your thing) or nice slacks and great Palmroth loafers (or slinky heels) will ‘suit you up’ properly and comfortably for any event this City of Angels has to offer.    

The Tasaraita T-Shirt has been a staple in practically every Finn’s closet for decades. The blue and white stripes are a reminder of Finnish flag colors that reflect the water and the sky of our homeland. The elegant nautical colors always make for a fun and festive party theme and décor. I have blue and white striped table toppers that I used for this year’s Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit. So, the dessert matched the drapes! The colorful Finnish dessert was such a hit—my Father ate 5!

Festivities for Finnish Independence

Invite your favorite ‘Finnophiles’.   Virtually every Finnish home (and many ‘wired’ Finnish homes around the world) are tuned to the Red Carpet arrivals of Finns prominent in science, literature, sports, government, and industry. As in Hollywood, a Finnish favorite ‘sport’ of media and ‘fans’ is critiquing the outfits of the guests as they exit the Receiving Line after greeting the President of Finland. I just read that the official invitations for 2014 have been sent out in Finland.   The social world there is all ‘a-buzz’ in anticipation.

Have Your Own Red Carpet Party

Finnish Independence Day is ‘party-perfect’ this year because it falls on a Saturday. The time difference [10 hours] will allow you to have your own version of an LA Red Carpet Convergence as Finnish Independence is celebrated in Helsinki. In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki.

 In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki

In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki

[My Grandparents were regular guests at the Independence Day Reception back in the ‘40s when my Grandfather was a Dean at the University in Helsinki. They lived right on Hallituskatu by Senate Square, but were driven to the Reception. The Finnish men always wondered why my Grandmother would not walk the several blocks to the Reception, but, as women in formal wear on formal occasions know, you need to “arrive properly” for such grand events.

People watching, attire critiquing will be ‘de rigueur’ as each Finland Finn is glued to their TV and smart devices. Our recently, dearly departed Joan Rivers (or Mr. Blackwell) would have a ball watching as the procession of Finnish political, sports, business, journalistic, and literary glitterati arrive at the Presidential Palace.

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Finnish Activities Around LA

A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year. An Around LA With Ava three years ago chronicled the most “romantic Independence Day evening” when Pertti proposed to his beautiful Diana Cavonius on the way to the Independence Day Gala. Pertti (a former Angeleno and FACC Board Member) was back in town for a medical conference. He is a renowned neurologist/psychiatrist in Finland who worked at UCLA for a number of years. His bride Diana is an international expert and practitioner on adolescent issues.

 A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year

A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year

Pertti (with his eclectic taste for American music) had just been to a John Fogerty concert in Las Vegas. Anxious to take some rare recordings home, Pertti wanted to head for Tower Records on Sunset. His disappointment at their demise disappeared when I told him that Amoeba Records had replaced Tower as the mecca for everything in recorded music in Los Angeles. He was excited to be introduced to such a favorite source of hard-to-find sounds for even classical conductors here in LA.

Full Circle

My month of covering Finns began and ended at the same location. On a beautiful So Cal evening, I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at  a movie screening featuring none other than……. (read on to find out who—this is a ‘Hollywood tease’).

I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at  a movie screening featuring none other than……

I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at a movie screening featuring none other than……

A busy few weeks followed starting with:

Snow Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater. The Funland Comedy Ensemble presented the play. Opening Night festivities were sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland. The show was written by Finn Markus Leikola and directed by Finn Katarina Laurila—Saara Wacklin produced. Opening Night was a sold-out delight.

now Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater

now Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater

Elsewhere

For years, I have been busy with the various European communities here in LA. Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula. The scene around the Austrian Consul General’s residence was quite an event onto itself with helicopters overhead, blocks of cars, long lines of LA’s politicians and EU social notables waiting to enter and to be greeted by the ever gracious Ulrike Ritzinger, Consul General of Austria.

Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula

Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula

[I did not catch a glimpse of Austrian former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He lives in the same area. The ‘Arnoldnator’ is always a topic of comment at Austrian events.]

Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation

LAFF held its Annual Honoree Luncheon at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth.

This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth

This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth

A silent auction to benefit the LAFF scholarship fund included some special books that had been donated by the Consulate General of Finland. I was delighted with my winning bid as those books will find their way under my Christmas tree for my Grandchildren who will learn some more about their Finnish roots. And, they will be pleased to learn some more about their Great Grandfather who is mentioned in one of the books.

A silent auction to benefit the LAFF scholarship fund included some special books that had been donated by the Consulate General of Finland (pictured here co-presidents Valeria Jokela and Larry Soronen with Consul General JP and Tuula Markkanen)

Co-presidents Valeria Jokela and Larry Soronen with Consul General JP and Tuula Markkanen

Supporting LAFF (its work and its scholarships) is important for promoting Finnish heritage here.

An Evening of Jazz and the Launch of Finlandia Foundation National’s Sibelius 150th Celebration at the Consular Residence

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015. Esa Pekka Salonen and his wife Jane were present. It was a great night of cool music, good food, and grand plan announcements. Fun was had by all.  

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015

 

[The Markkanen’s delightful son was celebrating his 20th birthday the same weekend. He captured some great shots while honing his photographic skills at this star-studded event.]

Film Screening

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen (FinnTimes Publisher) in a major acting role in the movie! BRAVO on your performance Tomi!

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen..

The range of successes talented Finns have never ceases to amaze me. Here in Los Angeles you can be a journalist, a researcher, a professional, a photographer, an actor, an entrepreneur, a chef, a designer, an author, an inventor, a nanny, a politician, a teacher, an artist, a playwright, a musician, a scientist, a composer, an expert in different fields—or all of the above, and at the same time do it all well.

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

That is what modern Finland prepares people to do I guess. And, as the Creative Finns who have flocked here have found out, LA embraces talent—no matter what your ambition!

Giving Thanks

We have so much to celebrate and to be thankful for each Thanksgiving: family, friends (old and new), our Finnish heritage, warm weather, opportunities for growth and success—and so much more.

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good.

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good

Please always reserve December 6th to remember the sacrifices of the Veterans and Lottas who preserved Finnish Independence. Put out the blue and white décor, light the candles, recite the history of the brave, and celebrate the wonders of modern Finland. Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage.

 Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

RECIPE

Finnstripe Parfaits*

IMG1465

Finnstripe Parfaits ingredients

For Blue Stripe Layers:

  • 6 oz. package blueberry Jello
  • 2  cups boiling water
  • 2   cups cold water

Pour and stir pack of Jello in boiling water until dissolved. Stir in cold water. Pour into pitcher for use in layering. Do not refrigerate. Pour small amount from pitcher on bottom of shot glasses to make first stripe. A plastic box or tray containing all glasses will ease transport back and forth as you continue layering. Refrigerate glasses until first layer is firm—about an hour.

For White Stripe Layers:

  • 2    teaspoons gelatin powder
  • ½    cup cold water
  • cup boiling water
  • 15 oz can cream of coconut (Coco Lopez brand easiest to find at wine shops)

Soften gelatin powder by sprinkling over the cold water in a bowl. Add boiling water and stir until completely dissolved. Add can of coconut cream and stir. Pour into clean pitcher for use in layering.

Assembly:

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer. Chill for at least one hour. Can be made up to 3 days ahead. If desired, top with whipped cream, blue sprinkles, a miniature Finnish flag, or whatever. [You will have lots of blue Jello left over if you use ‘even’ stripes.   Enjoy.]

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer

Serving:

Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

IMG1067

*Add or interchange colors for other occasions or nationalities!

 

Serving: Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

Serving:
Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

AFTERWORD

Super easy ideas for your menu while you watch the Red Carpet Helsinki happenings:

Traditional Finnish pea soup

Finnish open faced salmon sandwiches, or sliced cheese and sausage with Finn Crisp Scandinavian Beer (Carlsberg), Lingonberry Juice, and/or Koskenkorva Vodka

IMG1021

A Pot of Finnish Coffee

and, by all means:

An order of karjalanpiirakkas or any other of the delights you can get your hands on from the Scandinavian Kitchen, Chef Sirpa’s new catering company.

REMEMBER

Do As Finnish Households Do On Independence Evening

LIGHT A BLUE CANDLE AND A WHITE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW AT DUSK

sssi

 

 

 

SUMMER: COMINGS AND GOINGS

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA 

SUMMER: COMINGS AND GOINGS

Summer is here!!

“No more pencils; no more books; no more teachers’ dirty looks…”

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?  Everyone had plans—even if they were going nowhere!

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?

Not much is different today—except we are the ‘teachers’.  Now, not only are there people coming and going as part of their plans in Southern California, but new projects and annual rituals are playing out as well in the City of Angels.

June 2013

On Sunday June 2nd, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica was filled with beautiful music and over 70 attendees in the Finnish Congregation.  This Mass of Music included kantele, piano, cello, and voice offerings.  The sermon was delivered by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, filling in for Pastor Jarmo Tarkki.  Bible readings were by Maiju Boele and Jonny Kahleyn Dieb.  The Finnish Folk Dance Group Katirilli performed an assortment of delightful dances during the coffee hour.

The Finnish Folk Dance Group Katirilli performed an assortment of delightful dances during the coffee hour

Treats at the coffee table included open faced sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, cakes and Karelian pies, and deep-fried lihapiirrakkas.

Traffic was horrendous in Santa Monica, but the outstanding Finnish Lutheran turnout was not the sole problem.  Obviously, the tourists have come to Southern California to celebrate their Summer —and our schools are out!  The local “weather-casters” had billed the day as “…perfect beach weather”.  An hour of worship, followed by Finnish fellowship and feasting before a dip in the Pacific—now that is a perfect LA Sunday!

More, please!!!!!!

The Bowl

One of the most anticipated events of the Los Angeles Summer season is the Opening of the Hollywood Bowl.  From Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon—and most villages in between, concerts ‘on-the-lawn’/’in-the-park’/’at-the-Center Square’ are standard fare.  Everyone knows they are coming—no big deal—we’ll be there—strike up the band.

The Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl

Well, not in LA.  Here Hollywood requires a ‘production’ of some sort.  On a recent Saturday at mid-day after wrapping up a FACC Board meeting at a member’s home high on Mountaingate near the Getty, we actually witnessed planes skywriting overhead announcing of the Grand Opening of our favorite, beloved, outdoor venue in the City of Angels—The Hollywood Bowl.

my most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky

My most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky

Each year when the written Bowl Program arrives in the mail, we quickly scour it for Finnish conductors and soloists—or pieces by Sibelius.  What a great excuse to pack a Finnish-themed picnic with your Marimekko tablecloth, Iittala candle holders and stem ware for a fabulous night under the Summer stars.  Actually, as glamorous as it is to be in a ‘front and center’ Founders’ Circle box with all of the accoutrements and ‘star power’ neighbors, my most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky while Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra playing Sibelius –how great a lullaby is that???  [Actually, I am not sure if it was the hour of night, a great meal, the classical music, or the ‘funny’ aromas wafting from the bushes behind the last row that brought the ‘nukkumatti’ (sandman), but it worked—and the kids love classical music to this day!]

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.  Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky are also on the program.  Also new this year: world famous LA restaurant Patina has just opened a full service tapas and wine bar at the Hollywood Bowl.  Chef/Owner Joachim Splichal certainly can cook—and tapas are a perfect start to a perfect Bowl evening

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Check it out: www.hollywoodbowl.com

LAFF SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation held their annual Scholarship Picnic on June 9th.   This fund raising event helps LAFF support Finnish related educational opportunities for worthy young people.

SUOMI  KERHO JUHANNUS BLOW OUT

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd.

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill.  Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+.  There were a multitude of delicious salads thanks to my favorite ‘Kitchen Ladies’.  Freshly baked pulla warmed our hearts.  Background music set the mood.  Lovely new table runners made by the ‘Sewing Circle Ladies’ decorated the dining areas.  Beautiful birch branches hung from the rafters [freshly cut from Eila Korpinen’s tree that morning].  All we needed was a lake to make the transformation to Finland complete.

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill.  Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill. Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

SUMMER IS NOW OFFICIAL!!

SYMPOSIUM ON FINNISH EDUCATION

As one of her final events as Consul General in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen hosted a meeting in conjunction with the FACC that focused on Finnish Education.  The film “Finland Phenomenon–A Documentary” was followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Andréa Hautala McAleenan, PhD [Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University].  Dr. McAleenan was joined by panelists Carl Cohn, PhD [Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University], Jaana Juvonen PhD [Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA], and Dennis Sheridan, PhD [President of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University].  A lively discussion followed.  With an audience of educators, journalists, film producers, current and former teachers, and some regular people, there were many perspectives aired.

Andrea Hautala McAleenan, Ph.D., Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University (moderator)  Carl Cohn, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University  Jaana Juvonen, Ph.D., Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA  Dennis Sheridan, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University — with Carl Cohn, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University, Jaana Juvonen, Ph.D., Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA, Dennis Sheridan, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University and Andrea Hautala McAleenan, Ph.D., Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University (moderator) at Bel Air, Los Angeles.

The film “Finland Phenomenon–A Documentary” was followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Andréa Hautala McAleenan, PhD [Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University]. Dr. McAleenan was joined by panelists Carl Cohn, PhD [Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University], Jaana Juvonen PhD [Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA], and Dennis Sheridan, PhD [President of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University]. A lively discussion followed.

Chef Sirpa Welch served up additional Finnish pride which featured delicious Salmon and rice piirakka, Caesar salad, and sweet bites and berries as refreshments.We were all reminded of the breadth of impact of Kirsti’s tenure here in Los Angeles when Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca had a Certificate of Appreciation presented to our own Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.As Kirsti and Mouf go off to Thailand, we salute them as well.  We will miss their enthusiasm, their Finnish focus, their leadership, and their friendship.  Kirsti and Mouf: a “fond farewell” and a “welcome back soon” from your many friends.

Ava Anttila, VP of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council presenting Consul General Kirsti Westphalen with a Certificate of Appreciation from Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca

[Through the years, I have been fortunate to know and work with many of Finland’s Consuls General in California—even one whose daughter attended the French School in Helsinki with me as a little tyke.   It is always sad to see a Consul General and family move away.  It seems like they just get here, get acquainted, do their great work in representing Finland and the local Finnish community, make personal and national friends –and it is time to leave.  Each is different, each makes their own ‘mark’, each stamps “Finland” with a different hue in this Southern California Finnish tapestry, each is appreciated –and, then, they are gone (not forgotten, however).]

INSPECTOR COMING = STUFF GOING

It is fun to have visitors—many come through.  Some amazing people have been here –“…if walls could talk”.  One of my most precious possessions is a photograph taken by and given to me by an internationally renowned Finnish photographer.  The beautifully framed photograph depicts an old Finnish building with large lettering on its side that says Kansantalo (the house of the people).  The sentiment he expressed when presenting it to me means so much: that this is a place where all are welcome –to share thoughts, ask questions, get helpful hints, have strong coffee, eat a home-cooked meal, and to learn something about the ‘American way’ [some So Cal freeway tricks, too] –a place where someone cares.  There is always an ear, a shoulder, and a warm hug [for almost everyone].

There are some “visitors” who come who are not as welcome as others.  Those who have followed this column for any time probably know that this gal’s plate is normally quite full.  Off to many places, doing many things.  The daily schedule is highly unpredictable –I may be able to tell you what I am doing for the month of August, but not know where I will be on Monday!

My ‘day job’ is attorney—lots and lots of paper, most of which must be kept for 7+ years.  Others may know that my dear, recently deceased, Mom was a dedicated ‘garage sale’ maven who took great pride in her various and sundry collections and clothes—lots and lots of clothes!  When my folks moved into my home about 5 years ago, we absorbed the contents of a 4 bedroom/3 car garage home—yes, that is a lot of storage space for 2 people!

So, when my home insurance agent called to say that my carrier wanted to send out an inspector to measure, photograph, and “inspect” every inch of my property inside and out, I thought it best to suggest a delay.

homeinspector_22

As it turned out, the dreaded inspector was quite a nice fellow

Southern California property owners know that each May 1 the LA Fire Department begins inspections of all properties in any potential fire hazard zones.  The requirements are quite specific and quite demanding—and the consequences of non-compliance are equally severe and range from losing your house to fire to thousands of $s in non-compliance penalties/costs.  Yesterday, the DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’ and that some of my Mom’s stuff did not make the ‘give-to-charity’ cut.  Still, the process was somewhat chaotic and took a long time to accomplish.  If nothing else, just the sight of 150+ 45 gallon trash bags waiting to ‘go away’ is enough to delay a ‘photo inspection’.

The DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’

The DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’

A persistent “insurance inspector” insisting that he urgently needed to inspect, to measure, to photograph, and to do whatever else both inside and outside my home in order to make a report was about as welcome as a root canal without anesthesia!

The inspector’s coming reminded me of how we need to learn to luopua or give up things we hang onto.  Ӓiti did not have luopua in her vocabulary—did I?   Could I say goodbye to enough ‘stuff’ to pass a penetrating inspection?

As it turned out, the dreaded inspector was quite a nice fellow.  He was so excited about his son’s imminent graduation from UCLA—the teaching job awaiting the son in Italy was at least as important as not having to write any more tuition checks!  He told of his recent visit to inspect Eddy Murphy’s place [a 34,000 square foot crib with a shooting range and a bowling alley!].  I thought of telling the inspector man my Eddie Murphy/Ivy restaurant story shared with FinnTimes readers earlier, but things seemed to be going well and I was guessing that Mr. Murphy did not have 150+ 45 gallon trash bags sitting in his yard.

We Finns have always lived “green” with the ‘waste not/want not’ philosophy while Americans have been more a ‘throwaway’ society.  Sometimes people carry things too far.  For example, an elderly client of mine was so happy when I visited him at his place in Finland because he was able to show off the lampshades he had woven out of used Paulig coffee bags!!

Here is the question:  Is it better to use your used coffee bags to make a decorating/fashion statement as my “crafty” Finn did in his living room, or should the trash go directly to a landfill?

Difficult call n’est, pas?

GOING IN LA

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin.  You can get a great long distance view heading East on Culver Boulevard in Culver City […someone else should be driving!].  My favorite view is on Santa Monica Boulevard just under the 405 –if you are stuck in traffic, it is a delight.  Looking East, past the Century City skyscrapers, as the West setting sun spreads its pinkish glow toward the snow capped mountains, a traffic jam is a welcomed pause in our go-go-go world.

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin

I cannot believe I just voted for a traffic jam to remind us of LA’s favorite boast to non- Angelenos of skiing on a mountain top in the morning and swimming or surfing at the beach in the afternoon.

I love LA!!

GOING, GOING IN LA

Rumor has it that the “snowcapped” part of our wonders of Nature may be going away, forever.  By mid-century, scientists say that 30-40% of the snow will disappear from our local mountains.  Boo Hoo—traffic jams will turn nasty!

GOING, GOING, GONE IN LA

The Wilshire Grand Hotel [originally, The Statler and, later, a Hilton] in downtown Los Angeles has been a landmark since it opened in 1952.  The hotel was a competitor of the glamorous Biltmore as a center of business, legal, and society activities for as long as I can remember.  When LA was ‘famous’ for not having a ‘downtown’, the hotel was popular with international travelers and had a near ‘lock’ on the activities on the Southwest downtown business.

The Wilshire Grand Hotel

Heading up Figueroa on my way to Court the other day, I saw the huge empty pit with lots of demo going on at the corner of Wilshire where the Wilshire Grand once stood. GONE!

Early in my legal career, I worked near downtown and had many meetings, seminars, and meals at the hotel.  (Lots and lots of good memories.)  Somehow, we expect that places that were always there will always be there.

Heading up Figueroa on my way to Court the other day, I saw the huge empty pit with lots of demo going on at the corner of Wilshire where the Wilshire Grand once stood.  GONE!

Currently, they are working on the demolition of the underground garage.  Massive digging will begin in August.  The $1 billion Korean Air skyscraper will eventually grow taller than the US Bank Tower [what Angelenos still call the Library Tower].  The new structure will become the tallest building West of the Mississippi River.  The plans include a hotel, offices, restaurants, and stores.  Double-decker elevators and an observation deck will provide views to the ocean—and to my mountains (with or without snow—no traffic jam required).

This Korean Air skyscraper will rise in place of the now demolished Wilshire Grand.

This Korean Air skyscraper will rise in place of the now demolished Wilshire Grand.

Actually, “GOING, GOING, …GONE” is what Vin Scully et al scream into their broadcast microphones when Yasiel Puig or some other Dodger [or Angel] star hits another ‘4 bagger’ [aka homerun]!  While there are some signs of improvement lately, for a while it did not seem as if either local baseball team knew whether it was COMING OR GOING.

COMING OR GOING

The adage of “…justice delayed is justice denied” has been parsed by those trying to explain the latest cuts to the LA County Court System funding.  Seven regional Courthouses will be closed and more than 500 jobs will be eliminated.  Budget cuts!

California’s largest Court system [here] has about 4,400 employees and approximately 540 Judges.  Last year’s operating budget was about $734 million.

Be ready for higher filing fees, longer waiting times, and further travel to your Courthouse.  Civil Courts (rather than Criminal Courts) have borne recent cuts more heavily with effects like: lines around the block/waiting for hours to dispute a traffic ticket have become commonplace.  If you are anxious to get a divorce, sue your landlord, have a custody battle, settle an inheritance matter, or get a certified copy of an essential document, be ready to pay more, “take a number”, and be patient!

The Clerk who helped me file a critical document looked harried and worried.  He has been there forever and really knows his ‘stuff’.  He said the latest ‘cuts’ had just kicked in—and more were coming.  This guy looks like he could play for the Lakers or the Clippers –I’ll bet he wishes he did!

Pondering:

How can we start building a ‘super train’ no one will ride between Fresno and Bakersfield before we even own the needed land [or have the $ to buy it], but we can take 30 days to process a Probate closing that used to take 3 days?  

BEEN THERE/COMING AGAIN

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!  No, I did not just ‘scoop’ TMZ.  I am referring to the ‘gold’ stars planted in the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalks, not the ‘humans’.  This ‘nip and tuck’ of the famous Walk began in September and will continue for the next 3 years –to the tune of $44 million!  As Governor Arnold used to say: “…I’ll be back!!!”

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!

Stolen Lotus Blossoms Repatriated/Thief Thanked.

Recently, the annual Lotus Blossom Festival at Echo Park has had to be cancelled—no lotus blossoms!  For years, the quantity and quality of the lotus blossoms declined as the ‘stank’ and pollution of Echo Lake increased.  Finally, there were no blossoms to be ‘festive’ over and the event ‘disappeared’.  It was sad.  It was sooo sad….

A project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the Echo Park lake

A project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the Echo Park lake

Then, a project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the lake.  Too late—the lotus plants had died a cruel death in the stagnant waters.  The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue.  It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond.  Our thief was prepared to share his ‘bounty’ in exchange for amnesty!  The Lotus Blossom Festival at Echo Park should be on again soon!  No word, yet, on whether the lake will be re-named.

The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue.  It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond

The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue. It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond

Echo Park Lake with lotuses and all is now better than ever.

Echo Park Lake with lotuses and all is now better than ever.

ICONIC/WHO CARES

The TMZ and other Star Tours busses always visit—or at least talk about, the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood as they ply their fantasies about ‘tinsel town’.  Tourists from around the world include it as a ‘must see’ sight even if they have never seen a stack of phonograph records that the Building is supposed to resemble!!

The Capitol Records Building in Hollywood

The Capitol Records Building in Hollywood

Looking to boost its sagging circulation through controversy—real or imagined, the Los Angeles Times recently ran a piece highlighting the speculation surrounding, and the opposition to, two proposed towers that would “tower over” the iconic Capitol Records Building.  Rather than ruminating on the ‘appropriate’ height of the two, tall, circular buildings developers are proposing and architects are drawing, it seems the debate should focus on whether tourists will be attracted more to three ‘stacks of records’ than one when most do not know what a “record” is, was, or could be used for in today’s technology!   What is Chinese for “…why are we paying good US$s to look at 3 round buildings?”

WHO CARES/ICONIC

On to more ‘important stuff’!  Rumor has it that:

Going down the street in Brentwood, Harrison Ford was stopped for using his cell phone in his classic Jaguar.  Despite claiming he was on speakerphone, it did not set well with the officer.   

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I CARE/CAREFUL

Crows (not Russell or a rock group) have come and they not going—well, perhaps I should clarify:

I know that there is an Alfred Hitchcock movie festival in town and that The Birds was one of his most notable films.  If you have seen that film—or even a promo, you already know that crows can be scary in the hands of a master film maker.  Let me tell you, they can scare the AH out of you in ‘real life’ too.

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded.  It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).  These birds are huge; they are loud; they are scary; and they are destructive.  Do we have to live the Hitchcock nightmare on a daily basis when the film is in re-runs???

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded.  It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded. It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

Seriously, LA, not only do they destroy the lawns we try so hard to keep looking nice, they “decorate” our cars, lawn furniture, and other indiscriminate targets with their output/offerings.

Two crows were fighting on my roof yesterday.  Hearing the ruckus, I went to investigate and was almost crashed into during their scrimmage.  The crows have gotten so big (like haukkas), I am afraid they are going to swoop down and carry off Sohvi-Koira!

While not quite as big, the crows have become like the coyotes who are not scared of humans –mere ‘shooing’ them away does no good.  Both are omnivorous scavenger pirates.  The crows have become the bullies of the bird world here lately.  Apparently they have become prolific all around LA and are here to stay.

I read recently that pesky birds (seagulls, in that case) are causing similar problems in Helsinki Harbor marketplace. We empathize.

Splat, splat be sure you wear a hat!!!

YOU CARE/CONSIDER CAREFULLY

Tuliaiset: Souvenirs and Hostess Gifts

If you are going to Finland for a visit, you may be thinking of what special things to bring along.

The tuliainen is brought to your Finnish host and presented upon arrival.  It is usually a thoughtful souvenir or ‘pre-thanks’ hostess gift for someone you are visiting –especially if you will be staying in their home.  It is always nice to bring a little touch of the USA, California, and/or LA with you.

Some like to bring a touch of Finland back home for “someone” –often ourselves when Finnish chocolate is involved!

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.  Here, a hostess gift can be presented upon arrival or sent after a stay at someone’s home.  A handwritten note provides a nice personal touch.  [Linens, stationery, a book, or an interesting household item are also appropriate.]

Gone are the days when an Angeleno going to Finland could be a ‘hero’ by bringing a nice bottle of California wine to a Finnish host/aficionado.  The new weight and liquid restrictions make the wine next to impossible.

[NTF:  You can get ideas from your Finnish friends who visit here from what they purchase to take back home.  Recent ‘discoveries’: Victoria’s Secret items are huge, even for the teen set; Apple computer products, especially new releases; cedar wood ‘moth’ balls for closets; and corned beef are among a few of the things I have seen packed for the homeland by Finns.  Of course, any official NHL game jersey with a Finnish star’s name on the back is pure gold!  When in doubt, ask.  As you know, there are some things Finns do not tell you unless asked!]

Whenever I am planning a trip to Finland, I try to remind myself that the best thing anyone can bring is your joy, love, and appreciation –it does not hurt to carry-on the makings of a California celebration for your friends, as well.

Even before I leave, I start to think about what I can bring home –I plan for suitcase space accordingly.  We all have our favorite Finnish things that best remind us of our stay: the tastes, the fashions, the art and design for the home, the little ‘reminder-things’ that will keep the memories of experiences alive as long as possible, or that make it easier for you to share with those back home.

‘Tis a shame, but that six pack of Lapin Kulta is better enjoyed while in Finland.  Liquids will be hard to transport even if there is a legal way.  I cannot help but think of my American friend Mona who is a converted conscientious cloudberry fan.  I always brought her a bottle of Cloudberry Liqueur –she now gets a Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream purchased in the US.  [Don’t tell her please –this will be our little secret.]

Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream

Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream

Things in my ‘coming home’ bag, always: smoking bags (available in any Finnish supermarket), tubes of mustard, Fazer chocolate bars, licorice (best purchased freshly-made from a farmers market), Oululainen’s hapankorppu, tubes of cardamom seeds, and anything not ‘sniffable’ by the NSA beagles […remind me to tell you about the accidentally hidden makkara one day].

Whether you are GOING, COMING, or just HANGING –HAVE A HAPPY SUMMER!!

Or as Arnold ‘Governator’ would say:

“Hasta LA Vista, Baabee!!”

 

THE MERRY MONTH

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AROUND LA WITH AVA

THE MERRY MONTH

May is always fun.  It is a mad-cap month of May frolics, Motherly celebrations, Mexican fiestas, and Memorials.  May is a long month that always goes by so quickly!  Perhaps that is because it begins with back-to-back-to-back parties and, then, before we can recover it melts into what has become a long four day Memorial Day weekend that marks the semi-official start of Summer in America.*   Even though Californians have Jacarandas in flower and roses budding instead of the “April showers [that] bring May flowers”, ice tsunamis, or floods to mark our Spring, we do find everyone buzzing with new energy finalizing Winter projects and setting up Summer plans.  To those who have lived in Finland […to say nothing of those still there!], the prospect of Summer ‘right around the corner’ is intoxicating.

Jacaranda Trees on Alta Drive in Beverly Hills

Jacaranda Trees on Alta Drive in Beverly Hills

Finns sense the impending arrival of Midsummer even without the benefit of a calendar.  For those of you going to Finland for the Summer Solstice celebrations, you are lucky! [Have your umbrellas and rubbers handy!]

Here, or there–now is the time to start planning your Finnish Midsummer Night using your ‘inner Finn’ as your guide.  Or, if you like, you can get a little LA help from ‘yours truly’.

Actually, if you live in Los Angeles where 70º F and blue sky/sunny by noon is a daily occurrence, a Finnish Midsummer celebration has less urgency to be on a specific date.  Here you can party outdoors on almost any night –Summer or not!  We can make our own heavenly Juhannus without worrying about whether or not the lake ice has fully melted.  [In case you are compulsive—or just like to pretend you are in the homeland, I will give some easy/fun suggestions and a recipe for Juhannus in this column.]

May Day

May Day is not really big in LA.  There is always a labor parade downtown, but that is usually pretty grim—more about immigration issues these days than the ‘springing of Spring’.  I know of only one May Pole with multicolored ribbons to be braided on the pole by dancing maidens with fresh flowers in their hair.  When The Archer School for Girls [Brentwood] bought the ‘old folks home’ on Sunset near Barrington, they kicked the ‘grannies’ and ‘grunties’ out to make their school but they actually kept the May Pole that used to grace the front lawn of the property each May.  A beautiful tradition continues to mark May!

maypole

Maypole at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood

Cinco de Mayo

While it has been some time since Southern California was a part of Mexico, each 5th of May we re-live and celebrate a major Mexican military victory with a blast that has the same party-until-tomorrow ‘enthusiasm’ as Finnish Juhannus.  In March, Angelenos become Irish for a day.  In May, we all become Mexican for a long, joyous day—and many of us actually speak Spanish!

Cinco de Mayo celebration in downtown Los Angeles

Cinco de Mayo celebration in downtown Los Angeles

Mother’s Day

The second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day in the US.  Mother’s Day is big.  And on the 365th day, Mother rested—or something to that effect.  A day of rest and futile attempts by families to prepare breakfast-in-bed for Mom has morphed into a major shopping spree and a restaurateurs’ retirement plan.  But, as a Mother, I have no complaints!!

Mothers Day Brunch reservations are booked early even in ‘walk-in’ places.  Grand hotels and country clubs stage celebrations around LA that can be truly “over-the-top” extravaganzas.  This year, I got an “E Ticket”!  [For ‘newbees’, an E Ticket got you on the very best rides at old-time Disneyland while A, B, C, & D tickets got you onto/into lesser attractions.]

My younger Son made reservations and was host.  When I arrived at the designated location at the indicated time, I found myself in a ballroom sized room with numerous buffets, carving stations with prime rib and turkey, presentation tables with delicacies, a made-to-order omelet bar, a French macaroon display, a gravlax table with all the trimmings, a cold buffet, a hot dish table at least ‘a mile long’, a raw bar, multiple cheese platters, appetizer trays, side dishes, and salads!  Phew!

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The jumbo shrimp on the ice sculpture with “Happy Mother’s Day” inscribed on it was my favorite course

The jumbo shrimp on the ice sculpture with “Happy Mother’s Day” inscribed on it was my favorite course.  While such a lavish ‘spread’ could conjure diet-busting guilt, here there were ‘no worries’ –enjoying these myriad delicacies involved a lot of exercise walking to the stations and back!

The food was extravagant  and included a made-to-order omelet bar

The food was extravagant and included a made-to-order omelet bar

[I must admit to being a bit apprehensive as I headed toward Manhattan Beach that Sunday morning.  This was my first Mother’s Day, ever, without my dear Mother.  Still, it was special to be invited to be with my ‘local’ Son and his family.  The company was great, the setting was fine, the food was extravagant, and they gave me some cool Marimekko gifts. What a fun experience it turned out to be!]  

Finnish Community Happenings

Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and the Creative Finns

On May 15th, Laura Laaksonen gave a presentation to the FACC about her research on the Creative Finns currently burgeoning in the area.  The diverse group has an age range spread from 21 to 60, holds monthly meetings, and is up to 200 members now.

Ms. Laaksonen’s survey received 80 responses.  She found that the group is in film, television, and music –most of the members having a high level of education.  The Creative Finns are looking forward to working together with local service providers, to taking part in government and private fundraising, and to exchanging ideas with those in the education and scholarship fields as well as their own disciplines.

Laura noted that the next CF meeting would be the upcoming Friday night at the “Pink Taco” in West Hollywood.  Needless to say, your intrepid reporter ‘needed’ to be there!  While I pride myself in staying in touch with what is ‘happening’ in our tinsel town, I have never really been into the Friday night pub crawling scene.  So, first, there was need for some research so I would be at the right place at the right time.  As locals know, LA is crazy with multiple locations, several places (and even streets with the same names) in proximity to one another, and the same street changing names as you move from one ‘area code’ to the next.

[Schedule Note:  On June 12th, the Consulate General of Finland and the FACC will present an evening panel discussion event on the Finnish Education System.  Mark your calendar and be there to learn why and how Finnish education is ranked #1 in the world!! ]

Creative Finns Monthly Meeting On May 17th

I had not heard of the Pink Taco where the CFs meeting was scheduled.  But, enjoying both the color pink and tacos, I liked the cute name and wanted to be sure I got to the right location.  Searching the Internet for proper coordinates, I found that apparently the name is not so cute to some and that there are two locations in LA.  Leaving the controversy aside [check it out if you like—it did make the late night talk shows], the two locations presented a challenge to be solved before heading out.  [Actually, the’ pink taco’ is a menu item that has pickled onions in a lovely shade of pink as an accoutrement and garnish.  An opening promo did feature a poor donkey that was shaved and painted pink with the name “Pink Taco” on its side.]

Creative Finns Meeting at the Pink Taco

Creative Finns Meeting at the Pink Taco

Having found the meeting place even without the donkey to wave me in from the street, it was great to be with young, vibrant, Creative Finns.  Laura Laaksonen was there, as well as, Pekka Pekkala who writes his poignant observations in a column in Helsingin Sanomat.  What fun it was to sit with the ever-charming, effervescent Sauli whose blog about his life in Ilta Sanomat is such a kick to follow.

Truth be told, the hard driving, loud music made it difficult to have a conversation with anyone more than a few feet away.  [Ooooh—someone is not a ‘20 something’ anymore!]

Ava and Sauli Koskinen

Ava and Sauli Koskinen

The afternoon ‘happy hour’ was morphing into ‘Friday night on the Sunset Strip’ as the sun was setting into the Pacific.  Having retrieved my car from the valet, I did manage a quick handshake through the car window and an ‘air kiss’ with Kirpi Uimonen who has ‘arrived’ in Hollywood where many CFs dream to be one day!  Here was a mentor arriving to share experiences and give insights to the next generation of ‘stars’ –surely there are exciting things ahead for many members of the CF group.  We will be proud for their individual and collective accomplishments to come.  Finland and the local Finnish community needs to be supportive and helpful to the CFs –and will be, if I have anything to say on the matter.

“Kokko-itis” [Bonfire-Ban-Itis] Comes Home

Celebrating Midsummer [Juhannus, i.e., the Summer Solstice] in LA used to be easier.  If you have lived or visited here, you know the vastness of the beaches –our entire West border is the fun, scenic rim of the Pacific Ocean.  Southern California Summers are all about singing around a fire and roasting marshmallows at the beach. [Adult beverages are prohibited by local Ordinance, but occasionally consumed nonetheless.]  If you have lived in or visited Finland, you know that virtually every person able to be there is at the edge of a body of water at Midsummer to enjoy the “kokko” [bonfire]—and an occasional adult beverage.

The latest buzz on the California bonfires is that some local residents are said to be objecting to the smoke emitted.  One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways.  Having lived on the beach a mile or so from Dockweiler, I can testify that the air pollution problems near that beach do not come from 15 or 20 per evening kokko, when 15 to 20 jet planes take-off per hour and 4 lanes of cars stream by on Playa del Vista day and night.  Actually, the real offenders are the Scattergood Sewage Treatment Plant which is immediately South of Dockweiler and the Chevron Oil Refinery next door, both of which run 24/7.  [Have you noticed that reporters sometimes seek quotes that suit their story and ignore facts that do not?  Besides, what would you rather inhale—a burning birch log or the ‘stuff’ that comes from those other sources??  I rest my case!]

One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways

One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways

Next target: home fireplaces.  The Winter nights do get cold here—even Summer evenings at the beach.  There is something romantic about a bear rug in front of a cozy fireplace.  What is a Finn to do?  We need our flame!

But –why are we talking about fireplaces when May is about planting and planning “…the start of Summer in America”.

Midsummer in LA “102”

We begin our ‘course’ at102 because just having some Finnish blood justifies skipping the basic introduction materials.  Let’s get on with some advanced fundamentals.

One:  Heat your sauna –or call a friend who has one and ask them to “crank it”!!

Two:  Get some birch branches.  We really do see some beautiful birch plantings in LA.  If you are Finnish, you know you know where they are!  Now, I am not advocating you trespass to get your hands on some prime birch branches.  [Use your imagination: You could offer free tree trimming which is always badly needed in this lush growth spurt time and take away the discard.]  Do get enough for the vihtas you will need for your sauna and for decorating your doorways, interior and exterior.  The local birches lack the signature aroma of the Finnish variety, but topping off your sauna with birch scented shampoo and soap for your ‘wash up’ will give you that shot of olfactory nostalgia you need on this holiday.

sauna birch branches

sauna birch branches

Three:  Take that sauna!

Those lucky enough to have a pool to enjoy know what to do on your Juhannus sauna.  Otherwise, improvise: buckets, washtubs, a plastic kiddy pool, a garden hose, or any ready source of cool, clean water.  We have a cold water outdoor shower for a quick ‘shot’.  If all else fails, try turning on the lawn sprinklers and running naked through the mist.  [Don’t knock it until you have tried it!  Back yard please, not the front!]

Take a sauna!

Take that sauna!

Four:  Light the bonfire!!

Even if you are not on a fire permissive beach or do not have a fire pit on your back yard, safe substitutes are available.  Not long ago at a small Albertson’s, I found Estonian sliced pine trunk mini bonfire kits you can light for your adorable little “mini-kokko”.  When all else fails, just put a multitude of candles together and call it a bonfire –and raise a glass to the Finnish Juhannus tradition.

Light the bonfire!!

Light the bonfire!!

Five:  Drink a beer –maybe more than one if you are going to do the fun sprinkler run!

Just as it is for a Finnish Christmas Eve meal, beer is essential to Finnish Midsummer rituals. [If you are one of those aficionados into sahti, knock yourself out –you are on your own.]

Unless you brought home a case of Lapin Kulta from your last trip to Finland, you will need to settle for what is available locally.  Many years ago, there was a beer called Finlandia sold in California.  I had a special space in a closet just for my ‘stash’!

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Summer Solstice is a cream ale style beer brewed by Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, CA

 An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer.  I even like Kronenberg (French).  Both are hard to find.  I get Carlsberg for Finnish dinners at a place on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Berkeley Street in Santa Monica.

An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer

An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer

Things to Ponder Category

Why has no one imported some good Finnish beer?

If you are into stronger libations, you can make infused vodkas as schnapps.  I like to infuse Finlandia vodkas with various fresh essences such as lemon, dill, berries, and spices.  Shelf life is not a problem given the medium.  I enjoy serving them in ice encased Finlandia bottles for Midsummer, as well as, other Finn-themed parties. 

[If you have a lot of Finnish friends, you probably do not have to wonder when your next empty vodka bottle will appear—you just have to allow enough time for the infusion flavors to mellow and the ice to form encasing the bottle.  Hint: rinse out an empty paper juice or milk carton—boil some water and let cool before pouring around the vodka bottle you are going to put in the freezer over night (boiling makes clear ice)—insert some ‘seasonal’ decorations (e.g. birch bark and leaves for Juhannus or holly leaves and berries for Christmas) into the water before freezing.]

Ooops!  If you are going to sauna, drink beer and schnapps shots, run naked through the sprinklers, and mellow in front of a kokko, you had better serve some great Finnish food!

The Main Featured Recipe: Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

This special recipe is a makkara preparation my Paternal Grandmother used to make.  I watched and learned.  (There is probably a similar recipe in every Finnish household!)  We called her “Helsingin Mummi” or “Pih-Mummi” because she lived on PIhlajatie.  Go figure –but, she “rocked”!  Pih-Mummi was a grand lady, a concert pianist, and a little Finnish girl’s idol.

Speaking of the Mothers/Grandmothers we celebrate in May, apparently the ‘baby-boomer’ generation here (now becoming Grandparents) are bristling at the titles “Grandma” and “Grandpa”.  They are trying to come up with alternatives: something less “old-sounding” and/or more “hip”.  NaNa, GaGa, G-Mom, Gummi, NutherMother, BonBon, and such are now becoming popular.  The pair that got me is the couple who have actually asked their Grandkids to call then Chablis and Cabernet!  Only in California!!

But, I digress.

Speaking of wine….

Buzz in Bel Air

I digress again…but it is worthwhile.

If you have been to the Finnish Consular Residence, you have been by a winery in Bel Air!  The most expensive real estate in the world and grape vines are planted on the rocky sloped back yard!  If you take the Getty tram to the top, look East SouthEast and you will have a spectacular view of the Vineyards of Moraga.  This stunning prize of a Bel Air property was ‘uncorked’ by none other than Rupert Murdoch of News Corp fame.  Kippis to you, you lucky fellow!!

Vineyards of Moraga in Brentwood

Vineyards of Moraga in Brentwood

The 16 acre property brought in the range of USD$30 million.  The seller was businessman Tom Jones (no, not the singer with the tight pants) who lovingly created magnificent –and very expensive wines.  The expense comes from the exceptional quality and the limited production.

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I used to see Mr. Jones in his Prius with wooden cases on the back seat

I used to see Mr. Jones in his Prius with wooden cases on the back seat.  Often, he was headed for Wally’s in Westwood making a delivery to one of the best wine shops in the country.  [OK, OK –I did follow him once out of curiosity to be sure my hunch was right and to be sure that nectar got to a place it could be found when the time was right.]

Changing of the Guard—and Consuls General

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

I was thinking of the Jones/Murdoch property transfer while on my way to the Finnish Consul Residence for the official “Goodbye” to Consul General Kirsti Westphalen [and husband Mouf] prior to her posting as Ambassador of Finland to Thailand.  The “Hail and Farewell” event at 1100 Moraga Drive was also a grand “Welcome” to Consul-General-In-Waiting Juha Markkanen [“…call me JP”] and his family who will soon hold court beneath the Moraga Vineyard.

[Please see Tomi Hinkkanen’s recent interview of Minister Markkanen for FinnTimes.]

The Finnish Consul Residence is such a proud property.  The Residence lends dignity to any event—and Finns are always pleased to be invited there to greet, learn, or celebrate.  The grace and dignity of the facility is enhanced by the culinary wizardry of Finnish Chef Sirpa Welch who sets a ‘mean’ table of tasty homeland specialties.  I so enjoy her enthusiasm and her skill.

Sirpa Welch oversees the lavish buffet

Sirpa Welch oversees the lavish buffet

 Now to the Nitty/Gritty Serious Makkara Recipe??

First, another detour.

A Most Important Décor Suggestion

You already have the birch branches absconded from your neighborhood, now go get some river rocks!  Since the Los Angeles River (and its kin) is lined with cement, you will have to look for the large, smooth gray pebbles at Home Depot or your local hardware store.  Gray is nice, but if you can find some recycled blue ‘sand glass’, that is all the better.

Next, in most any good grocery store produce section they sell cubes of wheatgrass or catnip.  You will also need some little tea lights which most Californians have in their household for emergencies and most Finns have just because we Finns must have our candles!

Now, form an undulating creek bed down the length of your table with the stones.  Place the wheatgrass alongside of the rocks as if it were the lawn or reed grass along a Finnish stream.  Place tea lights strategically in the wheatgrass down the length of your table.

If you can get your hands on those little ‘toothpick’ Finnish flags to place into the wheatgrass “tablescape” for your party, your guests will exhale Oohs and Aahs complimenting you with your creation in tribute to Finnish Summer and Finnish Greatness!  The Finnish Tourist Board website will get a ‘kazillion’ more hits from your friends saluting your efforts!!

Finally, The Food: Makkara/Grilli-Linkki with Boiled New Potatoes and Dill

Some Finns like to cook on their sauna rocks.  To me, that is like Americans who strap food to their car engines so it can cook while they drive.  While these ‘techniques’ may make a great TV Tip Clip on multi-tasking or eco-sustainability, some ideas just don’t work!  I prefer to keep the sauna rocks—and my car, as pure and pristine as possible without the stench of burned salmon when I get trapped in traffic on the 405 Freeway!  [If you do put the makkara ‘on the rocks’, it should be a ‘no brainer’ to wrap it well in heavy duty aluminum foil.  If you strap it to your engine block, watch out for melting cheese—it burns!]

In the oven, makkara is best baked uncovered on a cookie sheet or in a sturdy oven pan.

Pih-Mummin Makkara

(4 Servings)

1  Ring Bologna  – This is as close to a Sauna Makkara or Sauna Lenkki as you can get in LA.  You can also use a Kielbasa which is spicier, but may be easier to find.

Brown Mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle

1  Onion, thinly sliced

1  Tomato, sliced (Roma preferred because they handle heat better)

3  Pieces of a white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

 

Ingredients: 1 ring bologna, brown mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle, 1 thinly sliced onion, and 3 pieces of white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

Ingredients: 1 ring bologna, brown mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle, 1 thinly sliced onion, and 3 pieces of white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

Directions:

Make an incision running the length of the top of the sausage about ¾ of the way down into the ‘flesh’ to create an opening.

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Put the top of the tube or the bottle of mustard into the incision and squirt mustard all along the incision bottom.

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Put slices of cheese, onion, and tomato all around, stuffing the makkara opening as neatly as you can.

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Place sausage on a cookie sheet or oven pan and into a 375º F oven, baking for about 20 to 30 minutes until the sausage begins to brown and the cheese melts.

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Serve with additional mustard.  New potatoes boiled with dill sprigs make a nice accompaniment.

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Ice cold beer is the perfect drink.

HAPPY SUMMER PLANNING!!!!

*Memorial Day in America honors those who sacrificed to make and keep America free.  It is not just a day of barbeque and shopping.

To experience the solemnity, pride, and joy that makes Memorial Day so special, visit the United States Veterans Cemetery in Los Angeles that runs from Sepulveda to Veteran between Wilshire and Montana.  Worthwhile visiting anytime, it is a sight to behold on Memorial Day weekend each year when the 88,000 graves of the fallen are decorated with flags reverently and precisely placed by local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.   
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